Health and Fitness / massage

Pop-up massage station opens in Arnos Vale Cemetery

By elena angelides, Wednesday Aug 23, 2017

The hour after lunch is said to be the least productive time of day. However, after leaving the office and making a short trip down the Bath Road to Hannah Stuart-Leach‘s pop-up Indian head massage station, I felt less guilty about my unproductivity.

A yoga teacher and travel writer, Hannah has set up shop in the unexpected location of Arnos Vale Cemetery. Hannah informs me the space simply fell into place, after already having used it previously to hold yoga classes.

“I came across it as I used to teach an evening yoga class at Arnos Vale. I wanted to offer massages to people during their busy work days, and one of the lovely ladies who works there suggested the West Lodge could be a nice space for people to retreat to,” she says as we sit down to chat before my massage.

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The idea behind the Monday pop-up parlor is so that people can leave the office during their lunch break to relax, she explains. “This little candlelit sanctuary at Arnos Vale means people get to leave the office, and maybe stretch their legs in the grounds after or grab a bite to eat in the café.”

Hannah-Stuart Leach in her pop-up parlour

Despite the seemingly-bizarre setting, once I arrive it makes perfect sense. The candle-lit room within the exhibition space forms a safe cocoon, while tall, Parisian-style shutters block out the light from outside. The cemetery gardens that surround the West Lodge create a tranquil outer world, all just a quick walk from Bristol’s Paintworks and Here offices, and a longer stroll from Temple Meads.

Having never had an Indian head message before, I’m not fully sure what to expect. Hannah starts by offering me a choice of two different kinds of oils: almond-based or grapefruit. Making no attempt to hide my excitement, I opt for almond and get into complete relaxation mode.

The treatment lasts half an hour, focusing on my head, upper shoulders, arms and hands, getting rid of knots in places I didn’t even know i could get them. Hannah uses a variety of different techniques and pressures, and by the time the treatment ends, I am in such a serene state that I have to adapt to the light outside when leaving the room.

It’s tough going back to the office after such a relaxing lunch break, but somehow I make it through – only six lunchtimes to go until next Monday’s session.

The Arnos Vale pop-up is open every Monday, from 10am-4.30pm, and costs £15 for a 30-minute Indian head massage. To book, email Hannah via


Read more: The relaxation retreat for Bristol mums

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